Police work and reform

Modernizing Injunctions
Ethnographic analysis of security policy in France
By Mathilde Darley, Jérémie Gauthier

Based on an ethnographic study on the implementation of “Zones de Sécurité Prioritaires” (Priority Security Zones, ZSP) by the socialist government in 2012, this article examines the relationship between political reform and police work. Over the last twenty years, the introduction of performance indicators has particularly attracted the attention of studies questioning the transformations of the police under the effect of the New Public Management. In view of this, most of the available research has comprehended the reform of Western police institutions “from the summits of the State.”Taking into account the need to include “micro” configurations in the analysis of the objectives, stakeholders, and effects of reforms, this article is based on an ethnographic study in a police station in a large French city and aims to analyze the ways in which the ZSP reform has been re-appropriated locally. In particular, we seek to show how police executives use their own knowledge to enable them to respond to the “political demand” in a dual purpose of saving resources and displaying the police expertise and activity for the hierarchy and other colleagues (City Hall, Prefecture, Public Prosecutor’s Office, Ministry of National Education, associations, social landlords, etc.). In the field, this local adjustment by police executives to the objectives of the reform leads to the perpetuation of a traditional kind of police work in “sensitive” neighborhoods, inviting us to consider the ZSP reform as a “processual” policy, and police executives as policy makers.


  • police
  • reform
  • work
  • public policies
  • ethnography
  • France
Go to the article on Cairn-int.info